North America’s biggest and starriest festival (September 5-15) provides a launchpad for titles from major names including James Mangold, Marielle Heller, Wayne Wang, Edward Norton and Rian Johnson.

tiff galas

Source: STX International / Courtesy of TIFF

‘Hustlers’, ‘Western Skies’, ‘Just Mercy’

Galas- world premieres

Abominable (US) - dir. Jill Culton
The latest from DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio is the second feature as director from Culton, who co-helmed Sony Pictures Animation’s animal caper Open Season (2006), and before that built up storyboard and animator credits on a number of early Pixar features. In Abominable, a young girl discovers a Yeti on her roof in Shanghai and begins an epic journey to return the animal to his homeland. Voice cast includes Chloe Bennet (Marvel’s Agents Of Shield), Eddie Izzard and Sarah Paulson. This co-production with China’s Pearl Studio begins its global rollout via Universal Pictures International on September 12.
Contact: Universal Pictures

The Aeronauts (UK) - dir. Tom Harper
Previously Venice-tipped, Harper’s hot-air balloon adventure instead soars over Toronto, presumably after taking flight in Telluride (unconfirmed at press time — it is billed as a TIFF Canadian premiere). The Theory Of Everything’s Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones reunite as a scientist and widow looking to fly to record heights. Jack Thorne adapted the script from a story he co-wrote with Harper. In July Amazon moved the US theatrical release from October 25 to December 6, two weeks before its Prime Video launch, causing a rethink for the international plans.
Contact: Amazon Studios 

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood (US) - dir. Marielle Heller
US children’s TV presenter Fred Rogers was celebrated in Morgan Neville’s 2018 hit documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, which grossed $23m at US cinemas. This scripted drama — based on Tom Junod’s Esquire article ‘Can You Say… Hero?’ — made the 2013 Black List of best unproduced screenplays. Matthew Rhys stars as a sceptical journalist whose worldview is changed after his interview with Rogers (Tom Hanks). Director Heller follows up acclaimed awards contender Can You Ever Forgive Me? in this production for Marc Turtletaub’s Big Beach Films, TenCent Pictures and TriStar Pictures.
Contact: Sony Pictures Releasing

Blackbird (UK) - dir. Roger Michell
Scripted by Christian Torpe and directed by Bille August, 2014 Danish drama Silent Heart won four prizes at Denmark’s Bodil Awards including best film. This English-language remake from Roger Michell (Notting Hill) likewise sees a terminally ill mother bring her multi-generation family together one last time. The cast includes Kate Winslet, Sam Neill, Rainn Wilson, Susan Sarandon and Mia Wasikowska. Busted Shark’s Sherryl Clark produces with Millennium’s David Bernardi.
Contact: Rashad Qasem, Millennium Media

Ford v Ferrari (US) - dir. James Mangold
One of the films that Disney inherited when it acquired Fox, Ford v Ferrari sees Matt Damon and Christian Bale buckle up as car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles, who build a racing car for Ford to challenge the mighty Ferrari at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The film’s billing as a Canadian premiere suggests a slot in Telluride, which had not announced at time of writing. Disney has set a November 15 date for the awards hopeful from Mangold (Logan), whose 2005 Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line played in Telluride and Toronto.
Contact: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The Goldfinch (US) - dir. John Crowley
Following its Sundance 2015 bow, Crowley’s Brooklyn made a TIFF pitstop before launching into awards season. Now the filmmaker brings Donna Tartt’s acclaimed 2013 novel to the big screen, with Oakes Fegley (Pete’s Dragon) and Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver) starring as the child and adult versions of the young protagonist who comes into possession of the titular painting by Rembrandt pupil Carel Fabritius. The cast also boasts Nicole Kidman, Jeffrey Wright and Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things). Color Force’s Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson produce for Amazon Studios and Warner Bros.
Contact: Warner Bros

Harriet (US) - dir. Kasi Lemmons
One of Focus Features’ three awards hopefuls alongside Downton Abbey and the untitled Todd Haynes drama,Harriet has been referred to by some in the know as a superhero origins story. Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou) directs Cynthia Erivo in the role of the legendary Harriet Tubman, a freed slave who joined the Underground Railroad and risked death by returning to the south to help others escape. Focus Features releases in the US on November 1.
Contact: Focus Features

Hustlers (US) - dir. Lorene Scafaria
Jennifer Lopez reunites with frequent collaborator STX on a drama inspired by a New York Magazine article about former strippers who turn the tables on their Wall Street clients. Constance Wu from Crazy Rich Asians and Julia Stiles also star. Scafaria’s 2015 feature The Meddler starring Susan Sarandon and Rose Byrne launched in Toronto. STX will distribute Hustlers in the US. The film was previously set up at Annapurna.
Contact: STX International

Just Mercy (US) - dir. Destin Daniel Cretton
Hawaii-born Cretton made his breakthrough with 2013 feature Short Term 12, picking up multiple accolades from festivals and critics groups. Just Mercy tells the true story of campaigning defence attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B Jordan) who sets up practice in hostile Alabama with a mission to appeal convictions of Death Row prisoners. Jamie Foxx plays one of his clients, a man convicted of the murder of a young white woman despite a mountain of evidence pointing to his innocence. Netter Productions’ Gil Netter (Life Of Pi) produces with Asher Goldstein (Short Term 12). Warner Bros releases in the US on December 25.
Contact: Warner Bros

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson And The Band (Can) - dir. Daniel Roher
Roher makes TIFF history as Once Were Brothers marks the first Canadian-made documentary to open the festival. Based on the musician’s 2016 memoir Testimony, the feature doc follows Robertson’s early life in Toronto and his formation of the famous rock band. It includes interviews from collaborators and associates including Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton and Martin Scorsese, who executive produces the film alongside Imagine Documentaries’ Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.
Contact: Endeavor Content

Radioactive (UK) - dir. Marjane Satrapi
Iran-born director Satrapi hit the ground running with her Oscar-nominated debut feature Persepolis (2007). The director’s fifth feature is adapted by Jack Thorne from Lauren Redniss’s graphic novel celebrating the life of scientist Marie Curie. Rosamund Pike plays the Nobel Prize winner, while Sam Riley and Anya Taylor-Joy co-star. Working Title Films’ Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner produce with Shoebox Films’ Paul Webster for Amazon Studios and Studiocanal.
Contact: Amazon Studios

The Sky Is Pink (India) - dir. Shonali Bose
Four years after her Margarita With A Straw won a host of festival accolades, including Toronto’s Netpac award and Tallinn’s grand jury prize, India-born filmmaker Bose returns with this real-life tale of a young woman, Aisha Chaudhary, and the impact her terminal illness had on her family. Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra — who is making her return to the screen after three years — co-produces with Siddharth Roy Kapur and Ronnie Screwvala.
Contact: Roy Kapur Films

The Song Of Names (Can) - dir. Francois Girard
Tim Roth and Clive Owen star in the latest epic drama from Girard (Hochelaga, Land Of Souls) about a man searching for his childhood best friend, a Polish violin prodigy orphaned in the Holocaust. Robert Lantos (Eastern Promises) of Serendipity Point Films produces with Lyse Lafontaine (Mommy) and Nick Hirschkorn (Five Children And It). Sony Pictures Classics holds US rights and Elevation Pictures will distribute in Canada.
Contact: HanWay Films


Source: Toronto International Film Festival

‘True History of Kelly Gang’

True History Of The Kelly Gang (Australia) - dir. Justin Kurzel
Australian director Kurzel has his first Toronto launch after debuting both Snowtown (2011) and Macbeth (2015) at Cannes. The action pic is based on Peter Carey’s 2001 Booker Prize-winning novel about the criminal exploits of Australian bush-ranger Ned Kelly and his gang. George MacKay takes the lead, alongside Russell Crowe, Essie Davis, Nicholas Hoult, Charlie Hunnam and Thomasin McKenzie. Liz Watts for Porchlight Films, Hal Vogel for Daybreak Pictures, Paul Ranford and Kurzel produce, with Film4 among the backers.
Contact: Memento Films International

Western Stars (US) - dirs. Thom Zimny, Bruce Springsteen
Sure to be a must-see for fans, Western Stars sees The Boss perform his critically acclaimed latest album in an intimate setting, interspersed with reflections on life, music and the American Dream. Springsteen called into a US radio station not so long ago to enthuse: “We made a film of us playing the ‘Western Stars’ album start to finish, plus some other things. I knew we weren’t going to tour, so I figured this was the best way to do it.” Zimny’s credits include SXSW 2019 entry The Gift: The Journey Of Johnny Cash.
Contact: Warner Bros

Selected films

The Burnt Orange Heresy (UK-It) dir. Giuseppe Capotondi
Ten years after his debut fiction feature The Double Hour premiered at Venice, winning three prizes including best actress for Kseniya Rappoport, Capotondi returns with an English-language thriller set in the world of art theft. The international cast includes Claes Bang, Mick Jagger, Donald Sutherland and Elizabeth Debicki. Scott B Smith (A Simple Plan) adapts from the 1971 noir novel by Charles Willeford. William Horberg (The Kite Runner), Rumble Films’ David Lancaster and MJZ’s David Zander produce.
US contacts: CAAUTA
International contact: Hanway Films

Joker (US) dir. Todd Phillips
The director of the $1.4bn-grossing The Hangover trilogy makes his debut in the comic-book arena with this standalone story focusing on Batman’s infamous nemesis. Joaquin Phoenix stars in the role made famous by Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, in the story of a failed stand-up comedian driven insane. The cast also includes Robert De Niro and Zazie Beetz. Warner Bros releases in multiple territories on October 4. Phillips produces with Bradley Cooper and Martin Scorsese’s producer partner Emma Tillinger Koskoff, in collaboration with Bron Studios, Village Roadshow and DC Entertainment.
Contact: Warner Bros

Profiles written by Nikki Baughan, Ben Dalton, Nancy Epton, Charles Gant, Jeremy Kay, Orlando Parfitt, Lisa Wehrstedt, Silvia Wong

Further titles